Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Last Part

Paul Geren resigned his duties effective August 1, 1969. He said on leaving the university,  “My family and I thank the many people of Florida who have given us their friendship and support. I hope to continue to work in higher education, probably in teaching economics at another university.”

Leaving Florida, and just days before his resignation would take effect, Geren went with his wife Elizabeth and their youngest daughter, 17-year-old Nancy to Kentucky. He thought that he could get a job teaching economics at the University of Kentucky, though he had no firm commitment.

They decided to drive to Lexington and find out if there was a job for him. On Sunday morning near London, Kentucky, they encountered bad weather and severe driving condition. Elizabeth took over the driving so her husband could move into the back seat and rest.

It was while Elizabeth was driving that she hit a deep hole in the road and lost control of the car. They swerved across the narrow highway and hit oncoming traffic. Elizabeth and Nancy were taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington where they recovered from their injuries. Paul Francis Geren, however, was killed instantly in the accident. He was only 55.

Scores of telegrams and letters of condolence poured into Mrs. Geren during the following weeks.  She received more than 100 letters and 68 telegrams. These notes came from diplomatic and political officials in the United States and from overseas where Geren had work in the foreign service. They came from pastors, professors, the Florida Supreme Court, university students, and from the Gerens’ household help in Libya.  Paul Geren was a man many people remembered, loved and respected.

One final note about who Paul Geren really was. Like most of us, he was misunderstood, made mistakes, and didn’t always fit in with the crowd. But his diary notes from Burma, I think, tell us who he really was:

 This note was written in Ramgarh, Bihar, on July 30, 1942. It is one of the last entries of his famous Burma Diary:

To live is to be liable to sorry. All of us in the world are like a group moving over mountains together. The same peril stalks us all. When it touches any one of us it stirs a quality in him which lies deep, which is almost beyond knowing intellectually, which is assuredly beyond definition.

In whomever it is stirred, that one is akin to all other sufferers, with a kinship that cannot be sundered. In so far as people ever understand one another, this is the means of understanding. In tears our souls mingle.



Leave a comment
  • John….Once again a great service from your sharp eye and gentle touch. Paul Geren may or may not be the PC’s first writer but he is clearly the most insightful, the most thoughtful.

    All the best,

    Mike McCone

  • Paul Geren was my Grandmama’s (on mom’s side) brother. She once told me she helped edit Burma Diary.

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